July 21, 2021
Camelbak M.U.L.E Pro 14 Review
Words by Geoff Wright | Images by Geoff Wright & Neil Kerr
For a moment there I thought the humble backpack might be dead, replaced by the stealthy on body storage and bikes with internal frame storage. Then I went on an arduous day mission into the mountains with a few mates on bikes and while packing realised I would be an absolute liability if I only carried what I needed on my body and bike. By sheer luck I found a M.U.L.E Pro 14 floating round the office waiting for attention and that began my amazement of how far Camelbak has come since I first experienced their hydro packs.
There was a time where it felt like Camelbak were the only player in the portable water game but then all of a sudden the industry was flooded with companies wanting a piece of the action. Luckily Camelbak has kept coming up with more intuitive designs and is continuing to help riders stay hydrated.
The M.U.L.E Pro 14 is an impressive offering in the ever-evolving world of carriables. With 11L of storage and 3L of water capacity making up the 14L total. It is safe to say this pack will carry everything you need for a long day on the bike. With that being said, first impressions of this bag were quite the contrary, on first inspection I wondered where I was going to put everything I needed a pack like this to carry. The M.U.L.E is very deceiving in that sense. As I started to explore the pack, I found pocket after pocket ultimately adding up to more space and organisation than this small pack initially appears to have.
Three Main Pockets
This pack has a main pocket with zipped compartments to keep items in place during bumpy descents. This pocket also features an elasticated sleeve designed to slide an extra battery into but could easily be used for your lunch baguette if you don’t have a spare battery or eMTB. On the side you will find the pocket to keep the 3L bladder and a place to insert a back protection plate. The M.U.L.E also as an external dump pocket for bulky items like kneepads or for shoving a jacket into, but if you manage to fill the dump pocket there are a pair of compression straps at the bottom of the pack to secure any extra luggage.
Small Item Storage
In terms of smaller pockets on the main body of the bag you have a soft lining pocket perfect to keep you glasses or goggles in to help protected them from getting scratched. There is also a small zip pocket on the side of the pack for your wallet and car key. To aid in accessing small items while still wearing the pack, Camelbak have integrated small stretch pouches into the waist strap. These are perfect size for a phone and to stow some snacks for when the mid pedal munchies kick in. The M.U.L.E also comes with a small tool wallet which I found instantly handy so keeping all the small spares, lubes and tools in for when things don’t go to plan on the trail. It’s a nice little touch for a bag that is already got so much going for it.
One thing that puts a lot of people off riding with packs is that they are very warm and result it excess sweat accumulating. Camelbak have clearly worked hard to stop this from happening in the M.U.L.E by using their Air support which promotes comfort and breathability by using stretched mesh over very porous foam, Dubbed AirSupport ,this construction feature allows for the loads of airflow around the contact area of the back. To add to the breathability of this pack the waist belt and shoulder straps are also made from an ultra-breathable and lightweight mesh which is also very comfortable due to its ability to move with the body.
Small packs like these with no lateral adjustment can be hard to fit to your body but once you have found your sweet spot through testing it on the ups and down you can ride on in comfort. The M.U.L.E is a big enough pack to feature both a waist belt and chest strap which worked together well to keep the bag in place during a black descent off Coronet Peak and into Skipper Canyon.
Camelbak has always stayed true to the blue bladder and the M.U.L.E is no exception. Bladders have come along way since their early designs. You can now expect a large leak proof lid to refill your chosen liquid via and an integrated prop that help with the drying process before you put it back in storage. The tube is simply routed through the top of the zip of the pocket, it then goes over your shoulder, under a reflective hoop and connects to your chest strap with a magnet. The magnet allows the rider to bring the mouth piece up to their mouth and back to the connection with one hand and while pedalling. The mouth piece also has a on/off lever.
It is hard to find fault in Camelbak’s offering as it gave me more than I had bargained for. With big zip pulls for gloved hands to access pockets quickly this pack won’t hold you up and make you miss the party line descent from the heavens. All the pocketing felt hyper organised which avoided any frustration when I went hunting for a particular item. All materials have a premium feel, yet they were durable and performed well with the dirt and sweat you encounter on the trail. My favourite features were the external dump pocket and the tool wallet, both strong nods to riders who want to come prepared for any situation on their day rides.